Victoria Azarenka arrived in Doha yesterday, mindful of all the attention she would be getting as the world’s top player, but relieved nobody would ask her the dreaded question that had dogged Dinara Safina, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic in the past.
The Belorussian killed two birds with one stone, as it were, by winning the Australian Open and along with it the world number one ranking last month, a combination that has raised her stock in the eyes of her fans, and of course, the media.While Wozniacki, Safina and Jankovic became the world’s top ranked player without a Grand Slam title under their belt – something that led to some strong criticism of the WTA ranking system besides causing them enough consternation to them at press conferences – Azarenka has no such problems.
Her only concern is to live up to the hype and expectation she has created by becoming the first Belorussian to win a major and take the top ranking.
World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka gets a traditional welcome on her arrival in Doha yesterday
“My life has not changed suddenly after winning the Australian Open,” the 22-year-old told journalists at the Qatar Total Open draw yesterday. The tournament begins on Monday.
“Surely, I am getting a lot more attention, but essentially I am the same person, the same player,” Azarenka, who deposed Wozniacki as the world number one, said.
Her duties as the top player meant she didn’t even have the time to change her clothes as she had to attend the draw ceremony of the tournament immediately after landing in Doha.
Azarenka , however, admitted that her achievements meant more will be expected of her this year.
“Obviously my goal is to win as many tournaments I can, hopefully another Grand Slam. Surely there is pressure, but I consider that as a challenge.”
Meanwhile, Wozniacki, who is also playing in Qatar, is the second seed and hoping to prove a point or two after slipping to number four in the rankings.
“It’s a strong field in Doha, but I am always happy to be back here,” the 21-year-old Dane said.
“It’s always a great event and following 2011 where I finished as the world number one, it would be great If I could do that again.”
Reigning US Open champion Samantha Stosur said she was keen to finish 2012 higher than six, a feat she has managed for the last two seasons.
“Obviously I would like improve, maybe finish in the top three,” the Australian said.The tournament is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, with Total Qatar and the Qatar Tennis Federation inking a deal to extend the partnership for three more years yesterday.
Nasser Ghanim al-Khelaifi, the Qatar Tennis Federation President, expressed his happiness at the renewal of ties with Total.
“Qatar Tennis Federation is proud of the support we have received from Total from the very beginning of the event being staged and we are honored to have Total return as title sponsor this year,” he said.
“As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the tournament, this sponsorship enables us to continue to deliver a high quality event for both players and attendees and helps elevate the profile of tennis in Qatar,” he added.
Stephane Michel, Managing Director, Total Exploration & Production Qatar and Group Representative, also expressed his pride at his company’s sponsorship of the prestigious tournament.
“In 2012, Total is proud of its renewed association with the Qatar Tennis Federation in sponsoring the Qatar Total Open for the coming years. We are confident that Total’s sponsorship will help to expand the interest and popularity of tennis amongst the youth in Qatar. It is also undoubtedly an additional opportunity to highlight the formidable role of Qatar with the League of Top Sports Nations,” he said.
Michel added: “Supporting sports is a main part of our Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, as it is a major contribution to social development, the fourth pillar of Qatar National Vision 2030.”
Tickets to the Qatar Total Open 2012 are available on the QTF website and at Lagoona, City Center, Landmark, Villaggio and the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex.
Follow us on our social media channels: